Energy saving may be made mandatory

energy saving may be made mandatory

A man uses a mist spray fan to cool down in Ayutthaya province, instead of an air conditioner. The government is considering making energy saving mandatory as the cost of power generation soars. (File photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Electricity saving may be mandated for households and businesses as the high price of liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports pushes up the cost of national power generation.

Increased imports of LNG caused by a drop in natural gas from domestic sources are already blamed for pushing up electricity bills this year.

If LNG prices, currently at US$26-29 per metric million British thermal units (MMBTU), rise to $50 per MMBTU and remain at this level for more than two weeks, the mandate will be enforced, said permanent secretary for energy Kulit Sombatsiri.

The legal measure was approved on Monday at a meeting of the National Energy Policy Council (NEPC), chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.

The NEPC is worried about high energy prices, driven by the Russia-Ukraine war, the baht’s depreciation and higher demand for energy in Europe during the northern winter, said Mr Kulit.

Electricity saving is usually voluntary by consumers, but during the oil crisis in the 1970s the government needed to instruct households and businesses on using less power.

The mandate was enforced again years before the subprime crisis of 2008.

If the rule is reinstated, shopping malls and petrol stations may be told to adjust opening hours. Unnecessary lighting in public areas may have to be turned off, and buildings may need to turn  air conditioner temperatures up to 27°C.

Energy authorities would meet again to consider what mandate would be enforced to reduce electricity consumption, said Mr Kulit.

To reduce imports of LNG, the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) plans to delay decommissioning some coal-fired power plants and buy more electricity from hydropower plants in Laos, while PTT Plc is expected to decrease its LNG imports from 18 to eight shipments.

The proportion of gas coming from the Gulf of Thailand fell to 54%, down from 64%, while imported LNG increased to 20% of the total, up from 8%.

With greater dependence on LNG imports Thailand needs to increase electricity charges, to a record high of 4.72 baht per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

Authorities said the tariff will be capped at 4.72 baht until the end of December this year. Without this price subsidy, the tariff would probably rise above 5 baht per kWh.

The Egat has already shouldered more than 100 billion baht in costs after it spent money to slow down the increase in the power tariff.